The Image Makers

The Image Makers, or the “Creators” as they are sometimes referred to in hushed tones in the dark corners of social media or press studios, are giving birth to thought and emotions. Sometimes for good. Sometimes not. But they are there leaving their mark on just about everything you see on the screens.

They are the consultants, the marketing agencies, the PR firms, the psychologists, the color coordinators, the lighting coordinators, the script writers, the CGI experts, the clothing consultants, the voice trainers, the body experts, the directors and the scene builders.

They run the show to make you feel a feeling.

I stumbled across this beautiful video when I had insomnia one night. My roommate at the time had a TV so I turned it on while she slept and settled on the local PBS station run by KQED. They air a program called “Image Makers.” Image Makers showcases short movies or anecdotal films, usually in vignette form. This one, Nuit Blanche, grabbed my attention immediately. It is directed by Arev Manoukian and has stayed with me for years.

This profound little film, less than 4 minutes long, caught the eye of Sony a few years after it was originally aired. Leonard Cohen was brought in and gave it a richer tone, speaking one of his poems over the imagery. Some changes were made but the essence of Manoukian’s original film was captured and made into a one minute ad. It’s called “Two Worlds.”

Over the last four years, I’ve been thinking a lot about image makers. I’ve been resistant to the insistence that Donald Trump is a bloviated, narcissistic man-child in the form of an orange monster.

I’ve seen evidence of it when it benefited ratings. CNN did a breaking story about the dangers of Trump moving things. By him moving things it made him a chauvinist, where experts had to weigh in on his hidden anxieties. Chances are Trump was just playing for the camera. After all, I can’t imagine a person who is a MEDIA BRAND not doing anything to play for the camera.

I’ve seen evidence of the opposite as well.

When someone who I assume voted for Joe Biden asked me what I thought of this speech, I was looking at the color of his tie. I was looking at the flag. I was looking at his demeanor. I was listening to the inflections of his voice. I was listening to what he was saying and deciding for myself if it sounded reasonable. My response was that it sounded Presidential and maybe a little bit like he was conceding, but that was my personal opinion.

For four years we have not been allowed to see the rational man that millions of working class Americans voted for.

Like every human, there is a bit of a narcissist in all of us. Traits that make us unlikeable or make people feel uneasy are part of the complicated and often mysterious measures of being human.

Can you imagine, though, if we had a personal brand consultant following us around 24 hours a day, seven days a week curating our complicated existence to only show a one dimensional side of ourselves?

Do I think Donald Trump was the innocent victim to the “image makers” who curated his image? No. More times than not, I think he knew exactly what was going on and didn’t care if he came across as the clownish, narcissistic one dimensional piece of himself that only exists in parts, but these parts do not define him completely. I reminded myself of this daily.

Did you?

For four years our ignorance of the image makers and their creation of the feelings we feel in response to the images and videos we see on screens, big or pocket sized, has seized all sense of rationality. The academic class is horrified by what they see, preferring to take an air of snobbery and armchair analysis to the horror show they feel is an embarrassment to our country. Some in the working class saw through it and maybe on some unconscious level knew it was an act but didn’t understand how devious the manipulation behind the image curation went. Some who feel they have been ridiculed and called “deplorable” for too many years saw this narcissism and bellicose rhetoric as something to look up to and they cheered it on.

But in all cases, none of what we were allowed to see over the last four years was a complete picture of the man. In the same way none of what we saw of Obama for 8 years was a true depiction of him.

And, none of what we are seeing now in Joe Biden is a complete picture either.

In his recent “acceptance” speech Joe Biden said the phrase “two hundred million thousand” when referring to the alleged number of people that had died of the non existent disease “COVID-19.” This was not a gaffe. In fact, this isn’t the first time he had used that number specifically. This does not mean he has dementia. This was a calculated insertion in his speech to put a seed of doubt in your mind about him and his ability to run the country. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before you have to ask yourself why we’ve been allowed to see this curated image of Biden as a bumbling fool whose faculties seem to be rapidly disintegrating.

We’ve been allowed to see it because that’s what they want us to see in the same way that they wanted us to see Trump as a racist and a chauvinist. Why was it so important to relentlessly besiege us with this idea of Trump? For four years we have been attacked from every single corner from water cooler talk at the office, to social media memes, to state media stories, to dinner with family, to personal stories whistleblowing his darkest secrets, to alternative media rhetoric that he is a woman hating racist. We could not escape these attacks on his character and eventually the vitriol toward him mounted and the cacophony of voices emerged as a result of this curated image, a curated and repurposed image of a man that only demonstrated a portion of the entirety of his character until in one singular resounding voice, it became evident we were victims of psychological warfare.

The image makers breathed a sigh of relief as their years of hard work and creative manipulation justified their lofty paychecks. Thus, they gave birth to Trump Derangement Syndrome. It worked. Whether you were deranged into voting for a giant pile of garbage or Joe Biden, it didn’t matter.

As long as it wasn’t Trump.

The image makers were given one task and they succeeded in that task: make Trump a chauvinist and a racist.

Now, ask yourself why.

Here’s a hint:

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